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Can a Person With Alzheimer’s Sign Legal Documents?

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A senior man in a blue plaid shirt signing a document with his wife.

Legal documents can play a crucial role in helping protect and uphold individual rights, responsibilities, and wishes. When it comes to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, questions may arise regarding their ability to make sound decisions, including legal decisions. 

As the loved one of someone with Alzheimer’s, you may wonder whether they can sign legal documents. The short answer is: it depends. Fortunately, safeguards are in place to help protect individuals with Alzheimer’s regarding legal matters. 

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that can cause a range of symptoms, including memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 6.7 million seniors live with the condition nationwide. 

The progression of Alzheimer’s can vary, but as the disease advances, individuals may experience difficulty with comprehension, judgment, and decision-making. 

Legal Documents for Seniors with Alzheimer’s

Planning for the future is important for all seniors and their families. Unfortunately, unexpected health problems, including Alzheimer’s, can throw a wrench in those plans. 

Seniors with Alzheimer’s may still need to sign a wide range of legal documents to ensure their well-being in the next stage of life. These legal documents may include: 

  • Wills & trusts: Seniors may need to create or update their will or establish a trust to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes after their passing. 
  • Power of attorney: Granting power of attorney allows individuals to designate a trusted person to make financial, legal, and healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. 
  • Advance directives: Advance directives, such as a living will or healthcare proxy, allow individuals to outline their healthcare preferences and appoint a trusted person to make medical decisions if they cannot do so. 
  • Financial documents: Signing financial documents like bank account agreements, investment contracts, or loan documents may be necessary for managing personal finances. 

Can a Person with Alzheimer’s Sign Legal Documents?

Determining if a person with Alzheimer’s is fit to sign legal documents will depend on the progression of the condition and the unique circumstances that pertain to a specific situation. 

However, as the loved one of a person with Alzheimer’s, it can be beneficial to understand how the condition can impact legal decision-making and what safeguards and tools are in place to protect your family. 

Understanding Legal Capacity

One of the key factors in determining whether a person with Alzheimer’s is fit to sign legal documents is their legal capacity. If an individual is deemed to have the ability to make legal decisions, it means that they are capable of understanding the nature and consequences of their actions and making informed decisions. 

Alzheimer’s can significantly impact an individual’s cognitive abilities, including their ability to make informed decisions—especially when it comes to complex legal matters. Legal capacity can usually be determined through an assessment with a legal professional. Your loved one’s healthcare provider may also be able to provide professional insight into their ability to make legal decisions. 

Legal Safeguards

While laws and legal standards vary across jurisdictions, many legal systems have incorporated safeguards to protect those who cannot make their own legal decisions. 

Legal Tools for Decision-Making

When an individual’s capacity to sign legal documents is questionable, alternative legal tools can be considered. These may include

  • Power of attorney: A person with Alzheimer’s can grant power of attorney to a trusted individual, allowing them to make financial, legal, and healthcare decisions on their behalf. 
  • Living Will: A living will is a written statement that outlines how an individual wishes to be treated in certain medical situations. This includes situations where the individual is physically or mentally incapacitated, such as being put on life support. 
  • Living Trust: A living trust outlines how a person wants their estate handled upon death. A trustee will be appointed to manage the assets of the trust, as outlined in the document. 
  • Guardianship/Conservatorship: If your loved one is deemed incapable of making decisions, a court may appoint a guardian or conservator to act in their best interest. 

Seeking Legal Advice

A senior man consulting a lawyer with his daughter beside him.

Given the complex nature of determining legal capacity and other legal requirements for signing documents, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a legal professional. An experienced attorney can assess your family’s specific situation and provide guidance to help you execute all legal documents properly. 

Here to Support Your Family

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be a physically and emotionally exhausting endeavor. 

At The Fairways at Naples, we are experienced in caring for seniors with memory conditions, including Alzheimer’s. Contact our team and find out how we can support your family today.  

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